Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March Madness: Temple No Longer Just About Staley

Guru’s Note: OK, a lot of of you have been visiting and not finding anything new at this site since Saturday’s early morning arrival.

Well, I did say coverage would be multiple-platform so our energies have been concentrated on print since that is the medium from which we derive our main paycheck.

But here are two separates, one of which is below since we did not have room for print, and one above this with musings and whatever to make up for our Molto Monday woman, whom I believe reported last week she was going to spend some time away from home base in Italy.

By Mel Greenberg

RALEIGH, N.C. _ When the Temple women’s basketball delegation awoke Monday morning after the Owls’ late-night victory on Sunday at the RBC Center over Nebraska to stay alive in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament’s Greensboro Regional, they found something unexpected outside their hotel rooms.

The USA Today edition, which can be found usually left at the door of most guests, had Temple in the headlines to lead the roundup of the weekend’s activity.

``I was surprised we made it at all considering how late the game ended,’’ Temple coach Dawn Staley said, showing an understanding of deadlines of publications which are printed on the East Coast.

``Anytime you see Temple highlighted in the headlines, you know we’ve come a long way,’’ said Staley.

A former WNBA all-star and three-time Olympic gold-medal winning point guard, Staley retired from her prolific playing career in September.

``We’re proud, not just for this team that’s playing in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but of players in the past who have afforded us the opportunity to be here. Not being here for the first time, but it being the fourth or fifth time that we’re here. So our program has really taken some steps in the right direction,’’ Staley continued.

``Opportunities to play Duke, to put ourselves in a position to compete and win, can only pay big dividends for the future of the program.”

For the first time since taking the Temple job in the spring of 2000 and turning around a program that hadn’t won in a decade, Staley will enter a new routine once the Owl’s season is over.

In the past, she went right into training for the WNBA season, so until now, even though she called it quits last summer, her routine has still been familiar going right into coaching Temple.

``I won’t really know how different things are until May (when the WNBA season starts),’’ Staley said.

``I know I’m done because I really don’t have that urge to work out as I did. And when I had to do it last year and the year before, it was a struggle to get up and do it,’’ she added.

``I fought it, and I fought my training, and I knew it was time. I could never get back (to her prime),’’ Staley noted. ``I couldn’t get back last year as much as I tried, I just couldn’t. I really felt the weight of being an older player. I didn’t feel it years before, but last year was probably the year I knew, `It’s time.’

“My body told me, and being in the locker room (with the Houston Comets) as well. There are things that don’t interest you anymore. Being with 22 year old players coming in, you just don’t have the same interests.

``I mean it was fun, but at the end of our practice I had to go home and I had another job to do – I had to recruit. I had to talk to the office. They’re (WNBA teammates) going out, movies, hanging out, mall, clubs – those things interested me before but not now.’’

Staley does have a trip to Italy on the horizon as an assistant coach with the U.S. Olympic team, which will take a training tour in April. Ironically, Duke coach Gail Goestenkors, who was on the other sideline Tuesday night, is also on the staff under Anne Donovan.

``I’m always going to be a player at heart,’’ Staley said. ``But I know I really can’t. But that part of me I will instill in our players. Just because when you have that competitiveness, you have somewhat of an edge, somewhat of a motivation to achieve – not just on the basketball court, but in life.

``When it’s time to outwork somebody, you have that competive spirit.’’

Staley also talked about the moment of truth, when a player has a chance to rise to the occasion such as reserve point guard Ashley Morris did on Sunday night.

``You can tell them, but there’s going to come a time when you’re going to have to come through. There’s coming to come a time when you have to play a certain way,’’ Staley said.

``And if you don’t have it, you’re going to fail in that moment. And then you’re going to feel bad. I’m going to feel bad. And we’re going to have to start this process all over again.’’

In the early years of Temple’s program under Staley, the news interest was focused on her debut into a new career.

Now, the Owls, themselves, are worthy of attention in their own right, a change Staley felt arrived by last season.

``We had a player like a Candice Dupree, and you look at what she’s done for our program, last year was the year our program took on a change from people saying Dawn Staley before saying the Temple Owls. It became. `Who is this Candice Dupree?’’’

The former Temple center, who became Temple’s all-time player, was drafted sixth overall in the first round by the Chicago Sky and made the WNBA all-rookie team, as well as being chosen for the All-Star game.

Dupree even got to play against Staley, her former coach, a few times, including the All-Star game.

Duke’s Lindsey Harding, who on Tuesday was named to the USA Basketball senior women’s training team, was asked if she missed a chance to go against Staley this summer when the Duke star is expected to play in the WNBA.

``I probably would have been in awe of her,’’ Harding said.

Staley continued to talk about the change in perception of Temple.

``That’s what I always wanted. I wanted Temple to have its own identity. Of course, in order for us to do that, it helps to have somebody with a name that can bring on some national attention and then, hopefully, with that in play, with our passion, with our ability to put ourselves on the national spotlight, that helps.

``Now Kamesha (Hairston) is doing it, hopefully Lady (Comfort) will do it next year and we’ll have people continue to come in and be the face of our program.’’

-- Mel


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